In my mind, I've been on vacation for days now.

Going on vacation for real this time. Back in a while.

Later, skaters.

Except that I'd keep my identity secret, thanks.

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They do not, in fact, call me Guitar Hurricane.

So I'm trying to learn to play guitar now.

I emphasize trying. It's a very slow process right now. I'm just a few weeks in, but on occasional I'm able to produce sounds that sound kinda sorta like chords, instead of the dull thudding sounds I was getting in the beginning. So, you know, progress. I can sort of hit a G, or at least most of it, with some regularity. And D sometimes, too. C was a real bitch, and still often is, but I'm starting to be able to almost hit something resembling a C. Of course, I still need to look at the fingering chart every single time I try to play. And I'm nowhere near ready to actually string two or more chords into any sort of progression. As I said, it's a very slow process right now, and very difficult for me. I mean, I knew it would be hard. If I wanted easy, I would've gone out and bought Guitar Hero for my PS2 instead. And I still might, if the price were to ever drop. But that's beside the point.

Long story short (too late): difficulty much. But it's good for me. I'm not the most patient person you'll ever meet. Despite many efforts to curb the impulse over the years, I still demand almost instant results from myself. I'm hoping this will finally break me of that. It probably helps that I'm doing this for fun, and don't have any aspirations toward some sort of music-based career. My window of opportunity to be a rock star, if such a thing ever truly existed, has long-since passed, and I'm cool with that. (I am, by my own admission, pretty lame to begin with, anyway, so I'm sure I'd be a pretty shitty rock star.) In the end, I'm just hoping to learn enough to noodle around for fun, play some songs, maybe amuse my kid. I just need to teach myself the patience to stick with it.

It helps that my teacher is pretty laidback. He's 19 and significantly cooler and more together than I could ever hope to be - by all rights, I should really hate this kid, but in the end, I can't help but like him. Plus, he's a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and plans on being that rarest of rare things there - someone who actually graduates from the place - so I figure he probably has some clue of what he's doing. I also like the fact that even though he's really into Music Theory, he realizes that I am not, and so far has dumbed the lessons down to a level I can appreciate.

I'd also like to point out that the guy who owns the store I'm taking the lessons at resembles a young Harlan Ellison. I'm just putting that out there.

Also, those little nubby bits that hold the strings in at the bottom (I'm so technical, aren't I)? Two of those have broken in the last week. But the thing is, the strings show no sign of actually coming out, so they must've wedged those puppies in pretty good at the factory. The funny thing is, the first one broke right before my lesson last week when the Harlan Ellison guy wanted to play my guitar. He felt bad, thankfully, and tried to fix it, but realized that the string wasn't going anywhere, and that he didn't have the time, anyway, so we agreed to leave it for now. Which probably saved me from an awkward "No way in hell am I paying for that repair" conversation, come to think of it, which I'm sure is a good thing.

Monotremes make great rewards. But marsupials are still good, too.

The British sitcom Spaced, starring a pre-Shaun of the Dead Simon Pegg, is finally airing on BBC America, a channel my cable provider actually, well, provides. The first two episodes aired Friday night, but I think they're being re-run tonight (Monday) around 11, so you may be able to catch 'em still if you missed them.

I've heard so many good things about this show over the past few years that I'm excited to be able to see it without resorting to the bootleg circuit or trying to track down someone who actually had the Trio network. So far, so good. It's definitely more of a subtle build to the punchline sort of humor, but your patience will be adequately rewarded.

This is a very good thing indeed. In celebration, here's a picture of a platypus that I found:

Don't say I never give you folks anything.

By the way, Tom the Dog claims to have found the greatest book in the history of the world, and I dare say that he is 100 percent correct in his findings. If agreeing with Tom on this is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Beating a dead horse - correspondence edition!

Dear DC,

Thanks to Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and all their related tie-ins, I've seen a lot of nastiness. Rape, murder, immolation, questionable mind-wiping, and even one guy getting the Three Stooges eye-poke clear through to the other side of his skull (From a Marvel Family villain, no less! At least Mr. Mind had the class to rack up his body count-off panel.), among other things. And I actually paid money for some of that. My judgment was probably questionable, but I did it, and there's no changing that.

But the way I see it, you now owe me this:

Pay up.


PS - To be fair, not all of the tie-ins were bad. Adam Strange was really quite good, and the Power Girl story in JSA Classified was a fun throwback to the 70s All-Star Comics run. So good job there.

PPS - All-Star Superman, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Jonah Hex are all terrific, too. More like those, please!

PPPS - I cribbed the "Showcase Presents" header template for the mock-up shown above from the Jonah Hex book. That image may explode in a mismatched genre supernova the likes of which the universe has never seen. So wear a helmet or something.

My new geek mantra: More Fun Comics

I read All-Star Superman #4, and sure enough, I was once again left thinking "damn, that was one fine comic book." Others can talk about this particular issue and the series as a whole in more detail (and plenty already have, I'm sure), but I just want to make one point and get out, and my point is this:

The secret of this title's success so far is that Grant Morrison understands that Silver Age Superman-type silliness can indeed still work in a modern context without being amped up, camped up, viewed "ironically," defiled, or fundamentally changed in any one of a million different ways; you just need a story with the sufficient tone to pull it off. And only a very few writers seem to understand this, or at least seem to understand how to do so successfully, maybe. Alan Moore did it with his few Superman stories and his run on Supreme (the best Superman stories never told). Joe Casey made a pretty good show of it with Mr. Majestic, too. I'm sure there are other examples, too, but that's all I can think of right now. I'm getting over a big ol' summer cold; cut me some slack.

You can revisit the past without pissing all over it, raping it, killing it, and setting fire to the corpse. Morrison and Frank Quitely are proving this every couple of months (And honestly, if the book is going to continue to be this good, I'm willing to let them take their time to get it right). They seem to understand that we need this sort of thing right now. I do, anyway. I'm tired of the events, the character assassination (in both the figurative and literal senses), the way-out-of-place violence and anger, the needless and poorly-executed exploitation of real world happenings.* I need more fun comics. And that's what All-Star Superman definitely is... More Fun Comics.

*Did I mention that I've now pretty much completely reversed my opinion on Infinite Crisis? Yeah... not so much a fan now. After that first issue, I really thought things were going to turn around, but by the time we got to Black Adam poking his fingers through Psycho Pirate's head on-panel, I realized that if anything, things were actually getting worse. My own fault for getting fished in, I suppose. Fool me once... Now, I'm not saying that I haven't enjoyed any of the post-IC content - the James Robinson story in the Batbooks has been fun, Robin has been kind of fun, and Legion is still one of the two best books the company puts out right now (the other is Jonah Hex) - but on the whole, Infinite Crisis killed my interest in big event storytelling but good, and I'll be approaching most Big Two material with a more cynical eye than ever before. If they want any more of my money, they're going to have to really work for it.

Hmm... maybe I should thank 'em, come to think of it.

Yeah, that's what I would've guessed.

Want to Get Sorted?
I'm a Ravenclaw!

Just some stuff.

So a few years back, I wrote a column for the movie section of I was shocked to find that everything is still available in the archives. So go check it out. And then maybe come back and offer me an actual paying gig to do something similar, if you're so inclined. Because that'd be cool.

More eBay auctions - Plastic Man Archives Vols. 1 & 2, Shades of Blue: The Collected Edition Vol. 1, and a TV tie-in novel based on The Prisoner. More to come, probably. Bid early, often, and honestly!

But is it art?

We lost power at work the other day. We eventually got it back, but the network stayed down for the rest of the night. We couldn't do anything... no processing of materials (i.e., checking books in or out), no email or internet, no accessing the catalogue (we don't have a physical card catalogue anymore), no printing... nothing. It was a long night, to say the least. I mean, yeah, I'm thankful the lights came back on (and with them, the motion sensor flushers on the toilets; that could've gotten nasty really quickly), but not really being able to do anything really makes an evening drag.

So I brushed up on my MS Paint skills. I give you "Pac-Man About to Devour a Worried (Yet Resigned to His Fate) Ghost Monster."

PS - Yeah, I know. Short blog-cation. I legitimately figured it would be longer, but then I remembered I'm going on actual vacation in a few weeks, anyway, so coming back just to go away again almost immediately seemed silly.

Summer Blog-cation '06

Getting kind of burnt out on typing about life rather than living it, so I'm taking a vacation from Blogland. I'll be back, probably.

Why DC's Who's Who Rocks Your Lame Ass Pt. 2

(For Part One, go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back here.)

Like a machine-gun toting, French speaking, homicidal gorilla with romantic feelings towards a human brain in a robot body wouldn't be scary enough as is. Then they go and get Bill Sienkiewicz to draw him. He's smacking around Starfire. He's tossing around the Chief wheelchair and all. He's saying "Grrrr." Creeeeeeeeeeepy.

Plus: machine-gun toting, French speaking, homicidal gorilla with romantic feelings towards a human brain in a robot body. What's not to love?

How much for the Uecker seats?

Boston-area sports talk radio (or at least WEEI) was abuzz on Friday thanks to this column from Boston Herald writer Tony Massarotti (and before we move on, yeah, I know... me listening to sports talk radio. Not sure what's going on there.). He writes about the complaints that a lot of long time Boston Red Sox fans have voiced lately about feeling squeezed out of their traditional roosts at Fenway Park. Since winning the World Series, the ranks of Red Sox Nation have swelled, and tickets to the games are in higher demand than ever, and a lot of folks think that the tickets that should rightfully be theirs are going to so-called bandwagon fans; folks who are only interested in the Sox because it they're currently hip, a breed of people typified in the minds of many as young, cell-phone gabbing, trendy-looking girls in pink Red Sox hats. And you just know, the thinking goes, that they're not real fans.

That attitude really pisses me off for two reasons. For one thing, the "real fan" argument proves nothing, no matter what genre it happens to be working in at the time - sports, music, comics, whatever. Sure, there are always going to be bandwagon fans, but not all of them are going to abandon the team, band, book, or whatever once they stop being popular or successful. It shouldn't matter how you became a fan. What matters is that you're a fan period. As one right-thinking caller stated, he has been a big fan since the Sox went to the World Series in 1967, and has never felt more entitled to his fandom than anyone else who has become a fan since then. "It's a great bandwagon to hop on," he said, "and everyone ought to feel free to do so."

Second - and more importantly - it's misplaced anger. The fault, dear Pissed Off Sox Fan, is not in the So-Called "Pink Hats," but in the Sox themselves. You want to know why there are more young, trendy, probably well-to-do fans at Fenway Park these days? They're the only ones that can afford it! Ticket and concession prices are through the roof, people, and those prices are controlled by the Red Sox organization. Bleacher seats for a single game will run you about $25. If you want a seat with a half-decent view, that'll run you anywhere from $45-100. Green Monster seats run about $100, too. Add in the $5 Miller Lites and the $4 Fenway Franks, and the idea of the Family Night Out At The Old Ballpark goes from quaint ideal to theoretical impossibility for most folks.

It's not easy to get into games these days, true, but drop the elitist attitudes, Red Sox Nation. You have a few alternative options, anyway. Either pray for a decade's worth of losing seasons to drop ticket prices, or enjoy those games you do get to go to that much more. Or go see a minor league game. Erin got us tickets online for the Paw Sox in the second row behind first base the day before the game, and the only cost about $9 each. That's cheaper than a movie these days.

But whatever you do, leave the Pink Hats alone, okay? They have just as much right to be a fan as anyone else. Besides, they can't all there just to be seen - there are trendier and significantly more comfortable places in Boston for that than Fenway Park.

Hey, a movie (or two).

Probably some spoilers ahead, so, you know, watch out.

Somehow we managed to find the time to see two movies this week. In the theater and everything! Thanks to Erin's parents for babysitting, and to AAA for selling cheap movie passes. (Because $9.75 for a ticket, and I still have to sit through pre-trailer commercials? Yeah, no thanks!)

So last Monday, we saw The DaVinci Code, which was kind of interesting for me, since I'm one of the only 5 people alive who never read the book. (though I did read Dan Brown's first Robert Langdon novel, Angels & Demons) So on the one hand, I had no real expectations or pre-conceived notions to live up to, but on the other, I had no idea why so many people felt so passionately about it. And after seeing it, well, I still don't see why, but it wasn't a bad little movie. The plot moved at a nice pace, the action scenes weren't so over the top as to be completely unbelievable, and the story kept my attention. Tom Hanks was decent as Langdon (even though I pictured the character more as a Dennis Quaid/Kurt Russell type when reading A&D), Audrey Tautou was great as always and cute as a button to boot, and come on, who doesn't love Jean Reno? The guy was even decent in the American version of Godzilla, for cryin' out loud; he's The Game, and he's that damn good. All in all, it was a mildly diverting 2 hours. I wasn't blown away, but I wasn't sorely disappointed, either.

(Interestingly, Erin did read the book, and had many reservations going in, but ended up liking it pretty well anyway. She did say, though, that Ron Howard was probably trying to stay a little too close to the source material, and that some of the book's adventurous tone didn't always translate so well. For her money, she said, Nicholas Cage's movie National Treasure probably captured the book's tone better than its own adaptation did.)

Last night, we got to see X-Men 3, or X-Men: The Last Stand, or X-Men: Froggy Went A-Courtin' And He Did Ride Uh-Huh, or whatever the movie's actual title is. All issues of nomenclature aside, we both liked it a lot. Maybe it wasn't as good as the second movie, but I think I'd rate it on par with the first. It was certainly different - Brett Ratner aped the look and feel of the Bryan Singer movies pretty well, but you could still notice Singer's absence - but it worked, I thought. The action sequences were well-constructed, especially the fight at Jean Grey's house, and the performances were mostly fairly good. Sir Ian McKellan, of course, stole the show again with scenery-chewing glee, and showed a wide emotional range when it came to Magneto's conflicted feelings towards the Professor. Hugh Jackman has done a good job portraying the emotional growth of Wolvie through the series. Halle Berry, for once, was actually watchable as Storm (though she'll never live down that "What does lightning do to a toad?" speech in the first one). And Kelsey Grammer was a lot of fun as Beast, much as I suspected he would be.

A lot of people online were complaining about some characters and situations being significantly different from their comic book counterparts, but that didn't bug me at all. For one thing, the changes all worked within the context of the movie series. Juggernaut's a mutant? Okay, that's going to make a lot more sense than his comic book origins, so let's go with that. Angel isn't an X-Man? Fine - the retconning of Beast as an unseen original member worked, but throwing in anyone else might've felt forced.

And second, and perhaps most importantly, what works in a comic book doesn't always work on screen. You're never going to see a completely truthful adaptation of the Phoenix storyline. Can't happen. Wedging that story's space opera roots into the reality the of the movie X-Men just wouldn't work, and would in fact completely counter the tone of the films. Slavish devotion to the source material wouldn't serve X-Men any better than it did The DaVinci Code. Besides, this isn't Tolstoy, it's the freakin' X-Men! Be thankful these movies were good at all, I say, because wow, they could've been really unspeakably terrible (see also: Daredevil, Hulk, Batman & Robin, Captain America, and countless others).

I do have two minor complaints, though: 1.) They could've been a little more handy with actually mentioning the names of some of the newer characters, don't you think? Did you know Psylocke was in the movie? Me neither, until I saw her name in the credits. Where the hell was she in the movie? I knew who Callisto was thanks to the press materials I've seen (she was Moves Really Fast Girl, btw), but of all the kinda-sorta Morlocks recruited by Magneto, the only one who gets her name mentioned onscreen was Arclight (aka Has Plastered Down Bangs & Shoots Shockwaves From Her Hands Lass). So, you know, addressing a few more folks by their names would've been nice, and not as awkward to wedge into the script as might be believed. 2.) I actually think it could've been a little longer. It made good use of it's 104 minute running time (according to IMDB), but it could've gone on another 20 minutes or so and I'd have been perfectly content. And then we could've maybe had the scenes where characters do get addressed by their names, and we'd all go home happy. Or at least Erin and I would've, and honestly, that's all I care about.

So not a perfect movie, but a fun one. Plus, I got a Danger Room scene, Kitty Pryde actually had something to do this time, and, again, Storm didn't completely suck. So all things considered, I call that a success.

Shillin' like a villain (Or, Boxing Henry Pym)

Time once again for eBay auctions to support the Bill & Erin Would Like to Move Someday and Don't Want to Have to Take All This Stuff With Them (And, Oh Yeah, They'd Like To Have Some Extra Spending Money When They Go To Chicago in August) Fund! This time around, I have:
Oh, alright, fine, it's just the head & shoulders piece of the "Build Your Own Giant-Man" figure that came with my Kitty Pryde Marvel Legends figure, not an actual disembodied torso. I don't need it, as I'm not interested in collecting the entire line, so I'm trying to sell it. But you have to admit, buying an action figure in pieces is kind of morbid. Also, about as crass an example of fanboy commercialism as I've ever seen. The other DIY Marvel Legends figs have been made up of 4 or 5 pieces. Giant-Man is made up of, I believe, 11. 11! Not only do you have to buy all of the regular figures from this particular series, but I think you need the variants as well, lest you be left with the good Dr. Pym's newest superhero identity, Combat Disabled Man. Craziness. It reminds me of that old Invention Exchange idea from MST3K, Johnny Longtorso, the action figure that requires you to buy each individual body part (down to the eyeballs and fingernails) in order to assemble a complete toy. Did ToyBiz move down to Deep 13?

And for another thing, jeez, I remember when action figures came with extra weapons, or maybe a display stand. A kid buying a Wolverine toy now gets a forearm. Um, I'll take the character inappropriate rocket launcher instead, thanks.